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Full text of "My Country And My People"

2O4           MY    COUNTRY    AND    MY    PEOPLE

In the sphere of ideas the scholars were, as we say in Chinese,
only turning somersaults in the Confucian school and looking
for cow's hair in the courts of the Confucian temple. All of
them denounced Chuangtse, the greatest writer of libels
against Confucianism, and all of them read Chuangtse. Some
of them even dared to play with Buddhist classics, but their
cult of Buddhism was dilettantish and their vegetarianism
half-hearted. The fear of heresy hung over their heads like the
sword of Damocles, and the fear of heresy could only mean the
fear of originality. Literature which lives only on spontaneity
was harnessed with the classical tradition of ideas. The "free-
play of the mind" was extremely limited in scope, and the
"somersaults in the Confucian school," however skilful they
might be, were nothing but somersaults within the Confucian
precincts.

After all, a nation of scholars could not discuss benevolence
and righteousness for two thousand five hundred years without
repeating themselves. Actually, an essay which won the first
place in the triennial imperial examinations, when rendered
into plain English, would stagger English readers by its puerility
and childishness- The gigantic literary feat produced by the
gigantic brain-power gives one the impression of the antics of
a flea circus. A writer could therefore be original only in the
sphere of novels and dramas, where one could be comfortably
oneself, and where imagination could be creative*

As a matter of fact, all literature that is worth while, that is
the expression of man's soul, is lyrical in origin. This is true
even in the literature of ideas: only ideas that come straight
from man's heart will survive. Edward Young made this point
clear as far back as 1795 in his Conjectures en Original Composition.
Ch'in Shengt'an, a distinguished critic of the seventeenth
century, said repeatedly in his letters: "What is poetry but a
voice of the heart? It can be found in women's and children's
hearts, and it comes to you by morning and by night." The
origin of literature is really as simple as that, in spite of all the
rhetorical and compositional technique that professors oi
literature try to encumber it with. Ch'in Shengt'an also says;
"The ancient people were not compelled to say anything, bu1
they suddenly said something purely of their own accord. The)